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Re: Reg. funding Srivaishnava causes

From: Sriram Ranganathan (srirangan_at_earthlink.net)
Date: Fri Jul 28 2000 - 10:37:36 PDT

Dear Members:

Since the issue of funding and (funds) management is being re-visited, I
would like to attach a note I wrote to Sri.SatakOpan sometime back, with
regards to many initiatives. Back then I was reluctant to post it on the
list for the fear of stirring a hornet's nest, but now I would like to
utilize an 'opportunity' to re-present my opinions.

Sri.SatakOpan and many others in the list continue to work tirelessly on
various significant projects that require phenomenal investments, in time
and money. In all the cases, they do an excellent job in handling the
process, especially considering the various constraints. Agreed, there may
be instances where things may not have proceeded per books, but overall I am
sure there is no question about the integrity. I am definitely not
contesting Sri.Lakshmi Srinivas' experience here nor do I wish to comment on
it specifically. This note is on an entirely different issue - related to
ideas on managing the scarce funds to achieve the best possible results.

I have taken the liberty to attach this personal correspondence between
myself, and Sri.SatakOpan, without his approval (pardon me, Sri.V.S.). I am
sure he would have initiated some of my suggestions, as appropriate.

The real reason for posting the same to the list at this time is to know the
opinions of fellow members on the subject, and hopefully help many groups to
implement the system at their local levels, upon correction, if any.

Thanks,
Sriram Ranganathan




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From: Sriram Ranganathan [srirangan@earthlink.net]
Sent: Friday, February 25, 2000 9:35 PM
To: 'Sadagopan'
Subject: Fund raising initiatives - An humble suggestion

Importance: High
Sensitivity: Personal

Dear Sri. Sadagopan,

Recently I read the fund raising posts on Pandyan Kondai kaimkaryam for Thiruvellur Sri. Veeraraghava Perumal. 

Immediately, the following thoughts crossed my mind. I decided to put it down and bring it to your attention, hoping that this will ultimately reach all concerned, if found to be meaningful and sensible. I appreciate your perusal.

>From time to time, individuals and organizations working on various projects get in touch with our Matams & Ashramams and other Sri Vaishnava associations like NAMA, SVSS, Nrishma Priya etc. and request for funds. In many instances the group manages to raise some decent capital and contribute to the project one way or the other and the projects go forward. Some of the kaimkaryams are completed successfully whereas others proceed a little before halting again for want of more funds. Many others do not even get to start. In most situations, it takes months and years with phenomenal cost over-runs than originally budgeted for, before coming to fruition. In recent years, Sri.Villiputtur renovation stands as a fine example.

Large projects like the structural renovations at SriVilliputtur and SriRangam need government intervention and help in some form or the other for successful completion, in addition to the efforts from individuals, corporate bodies, and religious associations. In almost all the instances, mismanagement or lack of professional management is often the cause for failures and delays apart from the actual financial crunch. Needless to say, our political bureaucrats in various government agencies contribute a fair share to the problems. In fact truth be told, the government is actually part of the problem rather than the solution. Though we cannot do much about these mega projects, the smaller and more localized efforts, like Pandyan Kondai for instance, can be definitely managed more efficiently and successfully. The key to that lies in encouraging and forcing the temples, organizations and individuals who request the funds (i.e. beneficiaries) to adopt better management and accoun!
ting standards, than current practices. It is here donor agencies spearheaded by devote individuals like yourself, can and should follow some ingenious methods for achieving the desired result.

In order to ensure the beneficiaries are following some standards, the donors themselves must have to. Strictly speaking it should start at the donor level, or more precisely at the grass-roots level. Instead of handling the funding issue on an ad-hoc, case-by-case basis, and losing the hold on the beneficiary, the donor agencies should follow a much more streamlined methodology. One approach is to request the beneficiaries to submit a project summary along with the funds requirement including specific numbers and schedule, to be taken up for evaluation by the donor committee members. In other words, this is nothing but a corporate or business approach, if you will. The document requested from the beneficiary is just a Request For Funds or RFFs, on the lines of RFCs in technology world, but with a religio-business twist.

On receiving the RFFs from various beneficiaries for a given period, the donor agency should compile a list and publish a statement on a monthly/quarterly basis to raise funds. This will also help to get the beneficiaries to do some homework and provide specific information about the project on a timely basis, as opposed to simple appeals for donations. Further, upon actual funds mobilization, the donor treasury can and should attempt to wisely allocate funds to the most important kaimkaryams based on some yardstick like their status, need, past performance etc. 

This is one simple way to enforce the standards ultimately leading to better management at the beneficiary end, thereby contributing to the success of the project. Further this helps to utilize the scarce funds judiciously on specific projects. In short, a simple carrot and stick policy universally followed by all the lending institutions. Whether this is an ethically correct approach in the case of religious contributions is definitely a topic for debate. Many believe that one should not apply yardsticks for donations in general and contributions to temple kaimkaryams in particular. Well, times have changed. People and governments are no longer what they used to be. Philanthropy is not part of ordinary people's life anymore, due to various compulsions of modern life. And in my personal view, if it helps in strengthening the overall system why not follow some standards?

In administrative terms, obviously this does require a very disciplined and methodical approach and lots of effort on the part of the donor, along with additional responsibility of fund management and associated issues, but then without a little hard work we cannot achieve anything. In reality, many of the donor agencies do have a treasury for managing and accounting the funds, but they rarely perform "real management". From what I understand these groups simply collect and route the funds and never hear about it later, except for the occasional ones. The system of RFFs and allocation should definitely bring some level of discipline to the whole effort and a sense of comfort for the individual contributors that their contribution, however meager, is utilized properly. More importantly this increase in comfort level will enhance the trust leading to better response.

Please note that I am not questioning the sincere efforts of various groups involved in the excellent kaimkaryams. This note is written from the angle of better management and not misappropriation.

I am also aware of the fact that, though you are actively involved in many fund raising efforts by way of contributing and requesting the participation of other Bhagavatas, you are not actually responsible for managing them. However, I notice that your efforts does generate a good response and involvement from other peers, and I believe you might be able to convince the sister associations like NAMA, SVSS and their management with whom you might have a good rapport, to adopt appropriate strategies similar to the one I mentioned, if they are not already doing so.

As always, I appreciate your feedback. Please feel free to correct me and share your own opinions and concerns regarding my suggestion.

By the way, I will be mailing a check for $51 toward the Pandyan Kondai Kaimkaryam, shortly.

Regards and Best Wishes
Sriram Ranganathan







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